Skeleton Lake News

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  • 02 May 2018 7:45 AM | Tim Lutton (Administrator)

    The 2018 Muskoka Summit on the Environment will be held on May 24 & 25 in Bracebridge. These summits, occurring every 2 years since 2010, have  become premier events featuring world-class speakers and public debate on key environmental issues.  This year's theme is "Restoring our Relationship With The Natural World".

    On the second day, all speakers participate in a panel discussion moderated by Paul Kennedy, host of CBC Radio's "Ideas".  He uses the panel discussion and excerpts from the rest of the Summit to create an hour-long radio presentation that is broadcast on "Ideas".

    Further information on the Summit can be found at:

    https://muskokasummit.org/

  • 02 Apr 2018 2:33 PM | Tim Lutton (Administrator)

    Please click here to see the recent Globe and Mail article describing the current fight against the proposed Lippa pit and quarry on Skeleton Lake. 

    - Tim Lutton

    April 2, 2018

  • 27 Feb 2018 3:12 PM | Jeff Crocker (Administrator)

    February 26, 2018

    To:  SLCO Members

    Re: Proposed Lippa Pit and Quarry:  Summary of Feb 21, 2018 Pre-Hearing Conference

    The purpose of this letter is to provide you with a brief summary of last Wednesday’s Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Pre-Hearing Conference (PHC), held in Port Carling.

    The first PHC proceeded as planned.  Mr. Hugh Wilkins was the Adjudicator for the OMB.  Approximately one hundred people attended, which demonstrated to the Adjudicator this is an issue people care about.  The purpose of the PHC was for the Adjudicator and respective counsels to: identify ‘parties and participants’, note issues people wish to raise, and agree on future dates.  By the end of the PHC, the Adjudicator granted ‘Party Status’ to the SLCO, the Township of Muskoka Lakes, Mr. Ross Earl, and the Appellant Mr. Lippa.  In addition, the Adjudicator granted ‘Participant Status’ to thirteen people/groups, including the Lake Rosseau North Association, and the Lake Vernon Association.

    The second OMB PHC will take place on Friday July 13, 2018 at 10 am and be held at the Municipal Office, 1 Bailey Street, Port Carling.  As before, our legal counsel has advised that a strong turnout from residents and cottagers who are opposed to the proposed pit and quarry is important at the second PHC.  It is important to continue to demonstrate to the Adjudicator that a large number of people are strongly against the proposed pit and quarry.

    Looking further into the future, there is the possibility of a third PHC; no date has been discussed for a third PHC yet.  The OMB Hearing itself will likely be scheduled for the spring of 2019.  We will notify you of these dates once they are available.

    Please continue to follow us on our Skeleton Lake Cottagers’ Organization Facebook page.  In particular, please refer to the following post on the Feb 21 PHC.

    As we continue to go forward, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    Sincerely,

    Scott May, President

    Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

    e:   scott@skeletonlake.ca

    c:   416 559 2839

  • 19 Feb 2018 8:01 AM | Tim Lutton (Administrator)

    February 18, 2018

    To:  SLCO Members

    Re: Proposed Lippa Pit and Quarry:  Pre-Hearing Conference Reminder – Feb 21, 10:00 am

    As you are aware from my previous communications on this topic, Frank Lippa is seeking an Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment to allow a 135.4 acre pit and quarry, in the vicinity of Butler Mill Road and Aspdin Road, less than 2 kilometers from Skeleton Lake.

    The purpose of this letter is to remind you of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Pre-Hearing Conference (PHC) to be held on Wednesday February 21, 2018 at 10 am.  The PHC will be held at the Municipal Office, 1 Bailey Street, Port Carling.  

    The primary reason for the PHC is to determine whether Mr. Lippa and his consulting team are ready to proceed to a hearing (i.e. are his studies and reports completed).  If so, the OMB Board Member may ask parties to settle on available dates for a hearing.  If Mr. Lippa is not ready to proceed, then he will ask the Board for a second PHC, likely 3 or 4 months from now.

    As our legal counsel has advised, a strong turnout from residents and cottagers who are opposed to the proposed pit and quarry is important at the PHC.  It is important to demonstrate to the adjudicator(s) that a large number of people are against the proposed pit and quarry.  Thus, we encourage you to attend the PHC on Wednesday, February 21, at 10:00 am at the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council Chambers in Port Carling.   

    Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    Sincerely,

    Scott May, President

    Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

    e:   scott@skeletonlake.ca

    c:   416 559 2839


  • 09 Feb 2018 8:41 AM | Jeff Crocker (Administrator)

    Re:  Proposed Lippa Pit and Quarry - Pre-Hearing Conference Information

    As you are aware from my previous communications on this topic, Frank Lippa is seeking an Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment to allow a 54.8 hectare (135.4 acres) quarry, with an extraction area of 26.4 hectares (65.2 acres), in the vicinity of Butler Mill Road and Aspdin Road, less than 2 kilometers from Skeleton Lake.

     The purpose of this letter is to give you further information about the upcoming February 21, 2018 OMB Pre-Hearing Conference ("PHC") to be held at the Municipal Office, 1 Bailey Street, Port Carling commencing at 10 a.m.  The information that follows has been provided by SLCO's counsel, Donnelly Law.  

     The primary reason for the PHC is to determine whether Mr. Lippa and his consulting team are ready to proceed to a hearing; i.e. are all his studies and reports completed.  If so, the OMB Board Member may ask parties to settle on available dates for a hearing.    If Mr. Lippa is not "ready to go", then he will ask the Board for a second PHC, likely three or four months from now. 

     Setting a date for a hearing is greatly dependent on the duration anticipated.  A hearing of a few days can be scheduled in the next few months; longer hearings are being scheduled later this year.  We anticipate that approximately three weeks is needed for the Lippa hearing, which means that the first available dates for a hearing will likely be 9-12 months from now.

     If a hearing date is set, the parties will then agree on dates to exchange witness lists, witness statements and reply statements, and visual exhibits.  These exchanges normally occur approximately three months prior to the hearing date. 

     At the PHC, the SLCO and the Township of Muskoka Lakes will be seeking "party" status.  A party must demonstrate that it has some interest in the proceedings (e.g. property ownership, concern for the environment) and must have communicated with Council regarding the application (e.g. attended Council's meeting and vote on June 10, 2017).  If party status is granted (which is likely), SLCO will have the right to call expert evidence, cross-examine Lippa's witnesses, and make closing arguments.  

     Citizens who wish to have "party" status should be prepared to call expert evidence on any issue that they raise; if the citizen plans to give evidence him/herself ("lay witness"), it is preferable he/she have recognized credentials which qualify them to give evidence on that issue.  Parties that call lay witness evidence only and do not assist the Board may be liable for costs.  Citizens who do not have the credentials to be a witness, but who wish to participate by giving a short statement, can alternatively ask for "participant" status.    SLCO will assist participants by drafting a Participant Statement which anyone who is opposed to the quarry can sign and submit.

     The onus to prove the quarry represents good planning and will not adversely impact the environment rests with Mr. Lippa.  It is his lawyer's responsibility to provide the issues his consultants will be addressing at the hearing.  Anyone wishing to seek party or participant status should come to the PHC with a rough outline of their issues; e.g. noise, dust, water quality, traffic safety, etc.  Expert witnesses will not be called at the PHC.

     SLCO will be contacting Mr. Lippa's lawyer to ascertain whether a hearing date will be sought at the PHC, or whether this PHC is just a status update.  I will advise you of the response we receive.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.

    As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    Sincerely,


    Scott May, President

    Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

    e:   scott@skeletonlake.ca

    c:   416 559 2839

  • 18 Jan 2018 7:17 PM | Jeff Crocker (Administrator)

    To: SLCO Members

    Re:  Status Update #2 - Proposed Lippa Pit and Quarry

    With 2018 underway, I wanted to send you an update on the actions the SLCO Board and our lawyer, David Donnelly, have taken with respect to opposing the proposed Lippa pit and quarry.

    We have retained a number of experts to help us prepare our case for the OMB hearing.  We have already received a preliminary report from a traffic safety expert, who has identified a number of issues that would arise on Aspdin Road as a result of the heavy truck traffic that would be generated by the quarry operations.

    We are also meeting this week with David Pink, Director of Planning for the Township of Muskoka Lakes.  As you know, Township Council unanimously rejected Lippa's re-zoning application for the quarry, and we are working with David to co-ordinate our opposition.  

    A reminder that a pre-hearing conference will be held on Wednesday, February 21, 2018.  The purpose of this conference is to determine the issues, parties, and participants prior to the actual Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing, which is expected to take place later this year or early 2019.  As David has advised, a strong turnout from residents and cottagers who are opposed to the proposed pit and quarry is important at the pre-hearing conference.  Thus, please mark Wednesday, February 21, at 10:00 am at the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council Chambers in Port Carling on your calendar, and plan to attend if possible. 

    In the interim, we encourage all members to go to the SMP website (stopmuskokapit.ca) and sign the petition opposing the Lippa quarry.  The petition represents the voice of many in the community.  There are now almost 2,000 signatures on it!

    As communicated last month, SLCO has sufficient funds to meet both the legal and expert costs it is currently incurring, up until the pre-hearing conference.  However, substantial additional monies will be required if we are to succeed at the subsequent OMB hearing.  Our intention is to launch a fundraising effort over the next few months. 

    We will continue to keep you informed on this important issue.  We appreciate your ongoing support as we work hard to keep Skeleton Lake the special place we all enjoy.

    As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    Sincerely,


    Scott May, President

    Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

    e:   scott@skeletonlake.ca

    c:   416 559 2839

  • 19 Dec 2017 9:27 AM | Jeff Crocker (Administrator)

    December 17, 2017

    To:  SLCO Members

    Re:  Status Update of Proposed Lippa Pit and Quarry

    A brief note to keep you informed on the status of the proposed Lippa pit and quarry:

    As many of you are aware, SLCO and the “Stop Muskoka Pit” group have been working together to oppose a 200,000 tonne/year pit and quarry that Frank Lippa is proposing to develop at a site 1.7 km from Skeleton Lake.  In June of this year, the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council voted unanimously to deny Mr. Lippa’s rezoning application, in response to concerns raised about the impaired water quality, noise, and traffic that would result from such an operation.  Mr. Lippa subsequently filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).  In response, SLCO has retained external counsel (David Donnelly) and various experts to assist us in opposing Mr. Lippa’s appeal.

    Last week, we received some new information about the OMB Lippa appeal hearing.  Specifically, a pre-hearing conference will be held on Wednesday, February 21.  The purpose of this conference is to determine the issues, parties, and participants prior to the actual OMB hearing, which is expected to take place next summer.  As David advises, a strong turnout from residents and cottagers who are opposed to the proposed quarry will be important at the pre-hearing conference.  Thus, please mark Wednesday, February 21, 10:00 am at the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council Chambers in Port Carling on your calendar, and plan to attend if possible. 

    Fortunately, SLCO has sufficient funds on hand to meet the legal and expert costs it is incurring, up until the pre-hearing conference.  However, substantial additional monies will be needed if we are to mount a successful opposition at the subsequent OMB hearing.  Our intention is to launch a significant fundraising effort in the New Year. 

    We will continue to keep you informed on this matter, and are confident of your ongoing support as we fight to maintain the pristine water, along with the peace and quiet, that are so central to our enjoyment of Skeleton Lake.

    As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

    Sincerely,

    Scott May, President

    Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

    e:   scott@skeletonlake.ca

    c:   416 559 2839

  • 01 Nov 2017 11:09 AM | Tim Lutton (Administrator)

    The District of Muskoka is considering a policy change that will result in an alarming increase in the number of condos and residential communities on the Muskoka waterfront.  In an attempt to preserve Muskoka's "grand resort" tradition, the District’s planners are suggesting that commercial resorts should be allowed to redevelop as residential communities.  The current proposal is that these "hybrid" resorts could designate up to 50% of their units as conventional homes.  The rest would be required to enter a "rental pool" for an undetermined number of weeks per year. 

    The problem is that resorts in Muskoka have special dispensation to build at much higher density than residential communities.  (The District calls this "enhanced density permissions.")  Developers are watching to see if this change goes through.  If it does, we could see new, high-density residential development all over Muskoka, on big lakes and small.

    To further understand what is being proposed, and how in turn you can help, please click here.

    The SLCO Board of Directors 

  • 31 Jul 2017 3:03 PM | Jeff Crocker (Administrator)


    SLCO is continuing preparations for the Lippa Pit/Quarry Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing. Many of you probably have questions about what to expect at an OMB hearing. Here is a brief take on the hearing process from our lawyers at Donnelly Law.

    Hearing Process: While each OMB hearing is unique, aggregate applications generally follow the same process leading up to the hearing.

    • Step 1: The Prehearing Conference. Mr. Lippa filed his appeal on July 10, 2017. The Prehearing conference should be scheduled for a one-day Board attendance within a few months of receiving Mr. Lippa's application. Prehearings deal with procedure and set out a roadmap for the hearing. At the Prehearing, the Board will determine and grant "Party" and "Participant" status.

     It is important to get a good turnout to the Prehearing conference. 

    • Step 2: The Hearing Issues. The parties to the appeal list their "issues" for the hearing. For example, does the application conform with the Township Official Plan? Are negative impacts to Skeleton Lake expected? Will the operation meet Provincial noise limits? Since Mr. Lippa appealed Council's decision, the onus is on Mr. Lippa to prove his application is good planning and complies with planning requirements. 
    • Step 3: Witness Lists and Statements. The parties to the appeal advise each other who they will call to give evidence.  OMB hearings focus mainly on expert evidence. For an aggregate application like this , we can expect to hear from a range of disciplines: land use planning, terrestrial and aquatic ecology, hydrogeology (groundwater), hydrology (surface water), water quality, traffic engineering and safety, cultural heritage, and acoustical engineering.  In advance of the hearing, witnesses are required to produce a witness statement, which is a summary of their professional opinion, key conclusions and recommendations, based on their investigations and analysis.
    • Step 4: Hearing on the Merits. We anticipate this hearing will be 2-3 weeks in length. It is rare for the Provincial Government to intervene and participate in an OMB hearing. SLCO will be asking both the MNRF and MOECC to defend the important environmental features involved in this application, including Skeleton Lake. 

     

    Role for the Public: Many people are asking how they can get involved and support SLCO for the OMB hearing.

    • Attendance: OMB prehearings and hearings on the merit are open to the public. A hearing day is typically 10 am - 4 pm. We expect the hearing on the merits to be scheduled sometime in Spring 2018, at the earliest.
    • Support SLCO: Let your local Councillor know your position, ask questions about the hearing, or donate to help cover our expert consultant, legal and hearing fees.

    Scott May

    President

    The Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

  • 19 Jul 2017 6:46 PM | Jeff Crocker (Administrator)

    As expected, Mr. Frank Lippa is appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”) the decision of the Township of Muskoka Lakes to reject his pit and quarry applications.  The Township has confirmed that Mr. Lippa filed his appeals on July 10, 2017. 

    SLCO and residents turned out in great numbers to the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council meeting on June 16, 2017, to voice their concerns with Mr. Lippa’s Planning Act applications to permit a 200,000 tonnes/year pit and quarry – and it worked. Council voted unanimously to deny Mr. Lippa’s rezoning and Official Plan applications . Thanks to your support, SLCO put forward an evidence-based case for Council to reject the Lippa pit and quarry.

    On June 26, 2017, the Town of Huntsville also voted unanimously to support the Township of Muskoka Lakes’ decision.

    Below, please find information from our lawyer on what to expect with an OMB appeal, and how you can help.

    SLCO expects a contested hearing, as multiple unresolved issues have been identified by our experts, e.g. impacts to Skeleton Lake, traffic safety, noise, etc. We have heard that local Indigenous communities received stacks of binders from the Applicant in late May, only a short time before the June Council meeting, which our lawyer says is "patently unreasonable".

     Information on OMB Hearings

    • Timing of the Hearing: The OMB's hearing schedule dictates when the hearing will take place. Currently, we do not expect a hearing until 9-12 months in the future.
    • Length of the Hearing: OMB hearings on contested aggregate planning applications may last 2-3 weeks, depending on the disputed/unresolved issues involved (e.g. hydrogeology, water, ecology, planning, traffic engineering and safety, etc.).
    • Procedure before the Hearing: There will likely be a Pre-hearing Conference for the Lippa appeals in the next 4 months.  At the Pre-hearing Conference, parties and participants will be granted status, and the OMB will ask the parties to work on the Procedural Order. The Procedural Order is the "road map" for the hearing, setting out dates for the parties to exchange issues list, witness lists, witness statements, etc.
    • Evidence at the Hearing:  OMB hearings are expert-driven. This means that in order to support its case, SLCO will continue to work with the experts it retained to review the Lippa applications: land use planner, ecologist, traffic impacts and safety, noise, and others.  

    The OMB hearing requires a substantial financial commitment in order for SLCO to put its best case forward to convince the OMB to refuse Mr. Lippa's proposed pit and quarry.

    SLCO members continue to voice the importance of protecting and enhancing the health of our Skeleton Lake watershed, and according to Mr. Gord Miller, the former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, the Lippa pit and quarry application is a direct threat to the Lake we all love.

     

    Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry: Aggregate Licence Application

     July 10, 2017, was the deadline for the public to submit Letters of Objection to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. SLCO submitted comprehensive and expert-based objections, thanks to your support. We also thank those of you who submitted your own Letters of Objection to the Ministry, ensuring our community's voice is heard.  These will be available on our website.

    We eagerly await the Applicant's response to our concerns about the impacts to Skeleton Lake and our community, and will update you once we have them.

    The Ministry is responsible for processing Mr. Lippa's aggregate licence application under the Aggregate Resources Act.  There is a chance that the Ministry will refer Mr. Lippa’s licence application to the OMB. Often, the OMB will hear both planning appeals (rezoning and Official Plan matters) and aggregate licensing matters in a single hearing.

    Other Updates on the Lippa Pit and Quarry

    To date, there have been no comments from the Province on the application on many important issues, such as impacts to Skeleton Lake tributaries and the Lake, air quality, noise, etc. 

    The Township of Muskoka Lakes will also be preparing its case against the Lippa pit and quarry. SLCO needs to engage the Township to ensure it continues to represent our community’s voice and hires experts to support this position.

    What You Can Do

    • Donate to SLCO to cover the cost of our legal and expert fees.
    • Call or write your local Councillor and the Mayor, and thank the Township of Muskoka Lakes for taking a stand to protect our environment and community.
    • Encourage local and provincial governments to engage Indigenous communities.

    SLCO will send weekly updates on the Lippa pit and quarry, and related issues.


    Scott May

    President

    Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

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